The Dark Knight has had a bit of a purple patch of late when it comes to his portrayal in video games. Rocksteady’s Arkham series is sure to be the benchmark for superhero titles; though largely original, a lot of their sub plots were inspired by the existing, acclaimed stories from the DC universe. The lords of interactive storytelling, Telltale Games, enter the fray with their own original take on Bruce Wayne, the man behind the mask.
The first episode, Realm of Shadows, is a timid introduction of sorts, and places us in the finest fitting Italian loafers of Bruce Wayne for a large majority of proceedings, as we get a glimpse into the tortured psyche of a man carrying a city’s hopes on his breaking back. It’s a story of family legacy, corruption, espionage and politics. The few instances you don the suit are memorable, though it’s some of Bruce’s exchanges with the likes of Carmine Falcone, or Selina Kyle even, that create some of the trademark tension that underpins Telltale’s best works.A lot of the episode’s dialogue is a touch on the nose, but if you’re expecting a fairly tame outing that shies away from violence you couldn’t be more wrong. The episode opens up with a guard being shot square in the face; the remainder of the episode’s action, as infrequent as it can be, is similarly ultra violent, should you opt for your Batman to deal out a harsh brand of justice. So expect the series to be rather adult-oriented.
As far as breaking new ground, Realm of Shadows doesn’t do a whole lot, instead opting to use the first episode to lay down a lot of the foundations for what is to come. It’s hard to deduce who’ll be the series’ big bad guy at this stage. If a subplot involving one of Bruce’s returning childhood chums unfolds as expected, that’ll certainly leave the Bat’s plate half full. It’s all wide open at this stage, and I do look forward to seeing where Telltale take their interpretation.Telltale’s now typical cel-shaded aesthetic has been much maligned in the past, only ever looking so-so while suffering from terrible performance issues. Fortunately, their new engine holds up a whole lot better with Batman running as smooth as you could hope for. The odd stutter rears its head, but it’s such a rarity I don’t consider it an issue; it hardly chugs like that slideshow they called Game of Thrones.